To Build Or To Buy, That Is The Question

Should your district, with its own unique culture, buy pre-built digital curriculum or build their own with an authoring program?
Connie Bosley, guest columnist

No ‘off the shelf’ program could fulfill your district’s goals and assessment needs. Each school district is unique in its combination of course offerings, mixture of teacher and administrative staff expertise, community support, budget and blend of students.

Your teachers and staff are familiar with your district’s requirements and its distinctive culture, current level of technology and infrastructure. A ‘canned program’ would not fit. Further, you have competent educators within your staff who are able to produce a curriculum program with (hopefully) little additional expenditure.

If, on the other hand, you feel your school or district can find a supplier who has a pre-built curriculum that would fit your specific needs, that:

  • Has a known record of meeting a school’s tailored requirements.
  • Can be personalized.
  • Will offer options that you are looking for at a price less than if you tried to build-in house.
  • Has PD that promotes immediate implementation.
  • Will meet your specific goals, state standards and preferred student outcomes, at a reasonable price;

Then you may be all set, with that supplier, to take the next step in a transformation.

Building digital curriculum within the district or school

If that’s not for you and it seems far-fetched that a supplier will have what you need and want, and you’re ready to start construction on a tailored digital curriculum within your system, then here is a list for you. Working with the Learning Counsel, I have created a list of software products and companies that you need to know and look into. My summaries below will get you started – including a combination of offerings, features, benefits and costs that could possibly fit your needs.

Compendium of a few curriculum authoring tools

Adobe® Captivate Adobe Captivate 9 creates interactive eLearning for mobile devices, the web, desktops and leading LMSs. Easy to use and intuitive UI will transform PowerPoint presentations into eLearning with interactivity and quizzes.

Cost: $1,099

Articulate® Storyline will create A polished interactive course that has e-learning authoring that will grow with you. It is simple enough for beginners but has sufficient power for experts.

Approx. Cost $1,398

Lectora® Inspire offers fast, easy to use flash content creating, screen capture and recording software to create dynamic video and Flash content and uses HTML5 for mobile devices.

Cost: $2,374 (license and 1 year of maintenance and support)

Udutu™ offers easy learning solutions to build and distribute online learning with flexible templates which easily presents material for learning, engaging interactions and scenarios. Udutu™ offers optimization for web delivery with short implementation time and integrates with and SCORM compliant LMS.

Approx. cost: $2,495

SmartBuilder creates effective e-learning that includes rich media, gaming elements, branching scenarios and assessments without you having to know how to code. Publish e-learning with SCORM, HTML 5, and Flash.

Cost: Free

BuildYourOwnCurriculum (BYOC) Award winning software allows easy development that supports standards based curriculum (district, state and national levels). Enter information into a practical, intuitive framework for district wide organization and consistency. The organized framework allows easy reference and access to student standards, course, and topics as well as give the ‘big picture’ of the entire districts’ curriculum.

BYOC Approximate cost:  $2 dollars per year per student. $1,000 per year district license.

Silverback Learning partnered with Gooru to create curriculum for districts. District educators create the curriculum libraries. Gooru is free and anyone can access but Silverback’s product, Mileposts seamlessly integrates with Gooru through SSO so users create lessons, assign them to students and track their progress all through Silverback Mileposts.

Gooru™ Approximate cost: Free and public access

WIDS Development and Consulting provides program design, management  and assessment, curriculum analysis and online course development. Onsite  training as well as a full line of consulting services including customized program consultation is available. It includes software to build a competency-based curriculum and streamline program and course content, syllabi creation and archiving.

WIDS Approximate cost: $10,000 to $20,000 per year

SoftChalk LLC is an award winning company provides e-learning software to K-12 schools and higher education. Create your own digital lessons combining your own materials with interactive learning content and rich media. Features include embedded assessment and interactivity that increases student engagement and learning outcomes. Using their “cloud” you can update once in the Cloud resulting in simultaneous updating of all courses. SoftChalk offers a 30 day free trial.

SoftChalk Approximate cost: License $5,500 (up to 2,500 student pop.) or $2.20 per student per year.                         

While this compendium offers just some of the available options, it is non-the-less a pretty deep dive into what is out there and definitely the companies and software that lead the pack and which deserves your attention.

Current wisdom suggests districts establish specific goals, include state standards, desired student outcomes, available funding and a timeline before researching possible software programs.

And, once you’ve done your review, don’t give up hope of making the transitional leap. If you decide not to build your own, there are great companies out there that will help you make it happen; delivering the best there is in digital curriculum and technology integration with professional development all along the way.

Connie writes for the K-12 EdTech industry.  Her goal is to help bridge the communication gap between K-12 districts and the education technology community.

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